Tips From a Young Writer: Inspiration

Originally Posted on Knitted By God's Plan

Since, last week, I told you you can't steal someone else's story, I'm going to talk about other places you can get a story. Now, I can't tell you that these work 100% of the time, and I can't tell you that they are all the ways you can get story ideas, because neither is true. These are just some methods that have worked for me.

1. Books you've read.
Now you're looking at me like I'm crazy. Last week I told you that you can't take ideas from books you've read ... and now I'm telling you that ...
Relax.
You CAN get ideas from books you've read. You see "There is nothing new under the sun." Suppose you're reading a book about people who ride eagles, and you really like the idea, and you want to write a book about people who ride eagles. Now, there are hundreds and hundreds of books about people who ride eagles, so if you write a book about people who ride eagles, it would not be plagiarism, AS LONG AS you do not copy the book you like almost word for word verbatim. Come up with your own plot, characters, setting, and all that. The genius of a good writer is not writing something new, it's writing something old a new way.

2. Dreams
I'm not talking about daydreams here (although daydreams can be good story ideas), I'm talking about good-old, bonafied, when you're having RPM sleep dreams. Now, not all dreams are book worthy. In fact, of all the dreams I've had in my 17 years of life, I've only come up with one book out of my dreams, and even there, the book has only two things in common with the dream.
My sister, V. Kathie, on the other hand, often has book-worthy dreams, but even then, she has to do major editing to them to give them plots and such.
So, getting story ideas out of dreams all depends on the person who's dreaming the dream.

3. Playacting
Gather some friends around and assign each of you a name and personality (just make sure they are okay with the name and personality. In fact, let them choose their name and personality), and let the story roll. I do this a LOT, mostly with my "play-partner," younger cousin. We come up with some of the wildest stories together. Sometimes I also do this with V. and sometimes with some other friends of ours.
Now, just as with dreams, a story you playact doesn't always make good book material. And you'll have to get your friends' permissions before you publish the story, but it's still a great place for ideas, nevertheless.

4. Asking little kids questions.
I'm honest here. One day, my brain had gone SPLAT. I was trying to figure out how to kidnap this one character, but I could not come up with a way.
So I turn to my not-yet-two little sister. "Little Miss FoI, (Full of It)" I said, "how should I kidnap this character?"
She turned to me, and with all solemnity, answered, "Abbida," and after a few seconds, added, "Abbido."
I blinked, and realized, that a "big doll," and a "big dog," were the perfect plan for kidnapping the character.
Little kids have the strangest ideas, and they are still untainted by everything they've read, so it's usually quite original!

5. Random thoughts.
Your brain can be quite creative at times, you just have to listen to it. That's how I came up with Robin, the MC of Sew, It's a Quest. I was folding laundry, and this random idea occurred to me. What if there was a girl who, due to a Fairy Godmother mistake, was the best swordsman in the world - without trying really! The second I came up with this idea, I had a name and mental image of her. She was Robin, and she had brown hair, brown eyes and an olive complexion. I also knew that she was on a mission to find her Fairy Godmother to get this gift straightened out. I also knew that she belonged to my Sleeping Beauty retelling (for which at the time had no plot) and that she was the missing element it needed. Robert didn't present himself to my mind for weeks after!
So have an open mind, and watch out for your brain to throw weird stuff like that at you.

6. History, Science, and Math.
Yep, you heard me right, school is a great place to find ideas for your books. In fact, it's one of the best places. Nothing, you see, is copyrighted in the three subjects mentioned above, and it's all free for the taking. Not only that, if your book is educational as well as entertaining, it will have a cutting edge over other books. A good book that tells a great story can be wow! but a good book that tells a great story, and teaches you algebra! That's WOW!!!! PLUS, you'll have teachers and parents RECOMMENDING your book.

7. Phone Book.
This is actually a good place if you're stuck on a name. There are lots of great names, first and last, in the phone book. Another place you can look for names is a baby name book (I actually own two, and can easily get my hands on a third!). A baby name book also tells meanings and possible nicknames, so you can pick out the EXACT name you need for a particular character.

8. Art and photographs.
Every picture has a story, and they say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so can you come up with the thousand words that form the story of say, a painting of a mother reading a book to her daughter, or perhaps a photograph of slaves picking cotton in South Carolina. If you're looking for an idea, you can also start doodling a picture. Perhaps the picture that comes out will give you the best idea in the world! You don't have to be a great artist, and no one ever has to see what you drew. Just draw, and see what happens.

9. Your Life.
Oh, don't tell me you have a boring life. I'm sure you have some glimmers of excitement and humor now and again! I use events from my own life all the time. For example, in the sequel to Sew, It's a Quest, there will be a scene based on something that happened at our Family Thanksgiving a few years ago. I can't tell you what it is, but if you want to watch out for it, it will involve pie crusts. I won't say anything more.

Now, I haven't even scratched the surface of places you can find ideas for stories. If you know of a great place, leave a comment! I'd love to hear how you get ideas for your stories!

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